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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • I have a 99' RX300 and haven't seen this question asked yet. Recently, I have been experiencing a problem with a high idle (RPMs). I am driving along and notice that at 40 MPH my RPM gague is at 3. The faster I go, the hight the RPM gague goes. It feels like that engine isn't shifting down. The ck enging light also comes on. It will correct itself sometimes while I am in the same drive cycle and sometimes waits until I turn the car off. I have taken it to be diagnoised, but they can't seem to find the issue (they thought I was driving around with my over drive switch off - not the case). My gas mileage has been going down. My transmission fuild is full and looks good. Anyone else have this problem or have any ideas what could be causing this?
  • alfromnyalfromny Posts: 1
    You are not the only one with this problem.
    I was accusing my wife of messing with the memory
    but now I believe her. The memory seems to last for about a week, and then it moves alittle here and there.
    I also have a creaking problem, I thought it was aloose seat, but now I think the problem is in the passenger headrest being too loose, and that is something that cant be fixed.
  • shocasershocaser Posts: 36
    Have you had the dealer look at the creaking issue? The bolts that secure the seat have pins that guide the bolts into place during manufacturing. These pins have no use other that assembly and tend to "bind" and cause a creaking sound. I had this problem when I got the car and thought that it was the steering column. The pins were removed and the creak went away.

    By the way, replacing the seat did no good. I set memory 1 AND memory 2 to the same setting. 2 months later, I reset memory 1 to the correct setting. I showed the Lexus tech the difference in the settings 4 days ago. The seat moves forward from the original setting by at least 1 inch, if not 2. The techs response was to suggest that someone had changed the setting. I am pretty sure that this is just an example of a piece of equipment on the car that will never work properly (all though I am pretty sure that I will be told that it operates within design specs).
  • stretchkjstretchkj Posts: 4
    Go to this address to see the TSB:

    There has been a lot of discussion on this forum about transmission problems - hesitation when accelerating and rough shifting. This TSB, titled "ECM Calibration: Shift Feeling Enhancement" - is a recalibration of the Engine Control Module. It is supposed to:

    - Reduce downshift lag when accelerating
    - Reduce gear hunting when driving on/off accelerator pedal between 10 and 20 mph
    - Improve response rate during heavy acceleration from a stop
  • legendmanlegendman Posts: 362
    I spoke to a service advisor at a California Lexus dealership yesterday who informed that there was a new TSB for the ES 330 line, model years 2002-2005.

    The TSB number I was given was: TC 004-03 for "ECM Calibration". I understand that it was issued for April, 2005.

    I believe that the transmission in the RX330s are similar or the same as that of the ES330; whether the TSB may apply to you depends on when your car was manufactured.

    I hope that this is helpful to those of you who are experiencing hesitation problems with these cars.
  • hintzhintz FloridaPosts: 56
    I had the update done on my 2003 es300, on thursday. I can definitely feel the improvement. The car shifts at higher rpm's and also doesn't search for gears at lower speeds.
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    Please update us after 500 miles. It will be interesting to find out if it has reverted back to it's old ways. WE HOPE NOT!
  • I have been having the shifting problems detailed in this discussion thread with my 2005 Avalon limited the past month. I bought on 4/5/2005. I have contacted the dealership who says they have no knowledge of the problem. I had diagnostics run on my car and the service department says there is no problem. However, I am still experiencing the same rough shifting, uncertain starts and hang time revving in the lower gears. There has also been dead time after I press the accelerator and when the car moves. The problem is none of it happens on a set schedule. I am wondering if the computer upgrade provided by LEXUS will also be applied to the new 2005 Avalons?? Anyone know??
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    You may want to check the Engine Hesitation Forum for more discussion on this topic.

    There was an article around April 12 in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that stated that the software fix was for all 2002 - 2005 Toyota and Lexus models with the 5-speed auto transmission. However, as far as I know, the only TSB issued so far is for the ES300/330. Someone (was it you bkinblk?) spoke to their dealership and was told that the software upgrade was intially being tested on the ES300/330 and would slowly be released over the summer, I think, for the other models. Also, bkinblk who posted above was told of a solenoid upgrade/repair for the hesitation problem.

    Sounds like Toyota is doing something. If and when it will be applied to the '05 Avalon, I don't know. You could try calling the Toyota corporate customer service number. I answered someone's question in the 2005 Avalon discussion forum in regards to hesitation and the other posters there are pretty sensitive about discussion of a potential problem in the Avalon, LOL, and adamantly insist that the problem does not exist in the '05 Avalon. Could you describe your symptoms in more detail?
    Editting to add link to the referenced article:
  • bikegalbikegal Posts: 50
    USA TODAY had mentiond the hesitation problem when it reviewed the new Avalon. I posted a link in the Avalon forum but everyone dismissed it because they said the Avalon was perfect. :P
  • richbf2richbf2 Posts: 73
    Does anybody know if Lexus is going to fix transmission problems on the ES300/330? This problem is really annoying to drivers and can be potentially dangerous in heavy traffic. Who would spend 35k-39k for a car like this?
    Please advise. Thanks
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    My opinion is that they will not fix the problem before 2007, Here is why:

    1) Toyota does not admit there is a problem.
    2) If there is a problem, it does not have an inexpensive solution. Lexus has tried using firmware to fix it, and it does not work, implying a system hardware/firmware redesign, which would be prohibitivly expensive for Lexus/Toyota. The fact that many drivers do not admit a problem does not help here.
    3) Lexus owners have been complaining about the problem for three years and no response from Lexus regarding a real fix.
    5) At this point, with fewer than two model years to go, I can't see a complete redesign of the drive train system, with Toyota replacing the system in all existing vehicles. I just don't see it, particularly since it has not been verified that it is a safety issue.

    As a potential owner who cared significantly about the problem, I would wait until 2007 to see if the problem resolves itself. Even then, if I were a betting person, I'd guess the problem would be there in the 2007 vehicle, for another five years as well.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I agree with atoews on all points.
    It may be premature to assume that the recently released updated TSB: TC004-03 firmware upgrade won't be effective. Only time will tell. Based on the prior TSB update released in late '03 which didn't work, I assume that we will see a repeat and it won't cure the problem.

    The real problem, imo, is atoew's point #1 "Toyota/Lexus does not admit there is a problem. Owner's have complained for three years and still nothing is done to "solve" the problem." Just band-aid firmware upgrades that attempt to appease the unhappy owners.

    I have to agree with atoews that there must be a serious system hardware problem that would be costly to fix and Toyota/Lexus is unwilling to do so in the absence of proven safety problems. Notice that all of the new models (GS, Avalon, etc) are avoiding the same drive train.

    The ES continues to slide in rankings against the Acura TL, BMW 3 series, and Infiniti; I believe because of the drive train issues with the ES.

    I am scheduled to have the TSB update done during my next service visit. I will share my thoughts then. I will admit that I am biased and not expecting to see much improvement.

    At this point, I wouldn't even consider the ES as an option if I was looking to purchase an entry level Luxury sedan. ( I have been a loyal Lexus / Toyota customer and have owned 2 prior Lexus and 2 prior Toyota vehicles ). This experience has been unacceptable for me to be a return customer again.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    The reason that I don't think the TSB is will solve the problem is that (as toydriver points out), 2002/2003 ES300 owners have had the opportunity to install their equivalent software, and most who have had this done said it helped a little but did not fix the problem.

    I, too will have the TSB inplemented at my next service. I will also let folks know how it goes.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Biased? I don't think so. "Biased" means that you have some opinion with no supporting evidence. In your case, you have 3+ years of observed behavior to support your belief. And if you don't believe you have been cognizant of three years of data, you can still go back that far on this thread to see for yourself.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    If not "biased", lets just say that I am SKEPTICAL that the firmware patch will provide a definitive correction to the problem.
  • gsb300gsb300 Posts: 2
    I just had the ugrade done today. Big difference. But the upgrade I had done last year worked well for about 2 weeks. It's like a different car. The dealer replaced the front warped rotors and pads. No charge. I'll know more in a couple of weeks after the computer picks up my driving style.
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    That's very encouraging. Please keep us updated. The recalibration fix will only be proven after time, milage and differing driving conditions have taken place. Good luck!
  • bettersafebettersafe Posts: 92
    Why are there no reviews posted on Epinions.COM about these problems ?
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Yes, please keep us posted. I heard of cars reverting to hesitating ways within several weeks to months after having the previous upgrade. So even if all remains perfect, keep coming back and tell us so.

    You also may want to consider reporting your results in the Engine Hesitation forum here at Edmunds ( ) which has nearly 100% of the posts about the Toyota/Lexus problem. This is a good forum to discuss the problem and solutions collectively with owners of the other Toyota/Lexus models having this trouble.
  • I had the transmission software updated about three weeks ago on my '05 330 -- so far, so good. It essentially eliminated the lag, but did not fix the sudden surge. So when I'm in stop-and-go traffic (which is nearly all the time), the car is more responsive than before, but still lurches forward rather than gradually. I share the negative feelings that others here have expressed about Lexus's response to the problem. The new software is an improvement (so far), and I feel lucky that it came just 4 months after I started complaining to them about the problem. I really feel for all you out there who have been fighting this for the past couple years. Well, I have learned my lesson, and will never buy a Lexus again. Back to Acura, or maybe Infiniti.
  • smirrorsmirror Posts: 3
    I asked a service representative in a Lexus dealer and also called Lexus customer service about the recent TSB. They all said only ES330s with certain VIN are in the list for the TSB and my 05 ES330 (bought in 11/04) happens to be not in the list, although it has a very serious hesitation problem. For the people who have the update done, how did you get them to do the update for you? Was your VIN in the list? Thanks for your input.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    A poster on the Engine Hesitation forum just had a solenoid replaced and tranny fluid level reduced and his first day results are no hesitation. He previously had the software upgrade to no avail.

    About the tranny fluid, some owners were noting that the tranny fluid level was well over the maximum line when hot. Excessive tranny fluid could cause it to froth and end result could be hesitation. It would be very strange if this was the cause of the problem all along, but I doubt it. It would be interesting if others with hesitation could check the level of transmission fluid.

    Will never know if bkinblk's (on the Engine Hesitation forum) results are due to the fluid level being drained or the new solenoid since both were done at the same time..
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    I never had a software upgrade on my Toyota, since none is yet available. However, by process of elimination, I would first check the transmission fluid. Turn off the engine, wait about 5 minutes and pull the orange dipstick. Do this 3 or 4 times to be sure. If it is 1" over the hot-notch on the stick, (like mine), then you better get some drained. After day -one with a new solenoid and lower fluid, my car seems fine, but I am very cautiously optimistic- only time will tell. In case this "fix" doesn't work, I now have documentation from Toyota that my fluid was filled too high at the factory. BTW, it's a new 05 V6 XLE with 2500 miles.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Sorry about that. Thanks for the correction.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    My dealer told me the same thing regarding VINs. That is, there is a VIN list of vehicles to which the upgrade might apply.

    This indicates to me that some cars have the upgraded firmware out of the factory. It makes it difficult to do apples-to-apples comparisons of the problem on this board, because people generally won't know whether or not their vehicle has the upgrade version of the firmware. Another irritant.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    This is a post I made to the Lexus Owners Club:

    "I started this thread on May 20, 2003, so if you go back to my first post it'll explain why I absolutely hated this ES's performance, from the time I picked up this brand new car from my Lexus dealer.

    Well, I can finally tell you that I'm completely satisfied with this new transmission calibration. Gone is the hesitation! Gone is the transmission hunting for the proper gear to go into! Gone is the lagging feeling as you go from a standing start.

    Today I picked up the car and immediately noticed a vast difference as I drove off the first time. Mind you, the transmission didn't even know my driving habits, so it didn't make any minor electronic adjustments to make it feel any better.

    Now the car responds like a good transmission is supposed to.....downshifts at the proper RPM and upshifts at the proper RPM. Like steviej said in an above post, it sorta feels like a manual transmission, where you would normally shift the car. It's beautiful.

    There is no more of having to adjust your driving style as you had to do before this upgrade. It now knows!!

    Lexus finally got it right!"
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    Please keep us updated. It would be great to know if the car DOES NOT re-learn your driving habits and revert to its old ways. Please post also on the Engine Hesitation forum.
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    That's great news for all owners of Toyota-Lexus products with the V6. Not to be a killjoy, but we have had experiences of initial excitement turn into disillusionment after time and miles were put on the car (when it fell off the wagon, the computer took over, and reverted back to it's old habits). I wish you much satisfaction with the new fix and genuinely hope it remains "fixed". Please keep us posted with updates.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    OK.......I have only driven about 300 miles on my car(2003 ES) since this re-flash of the ECM and so far everything is about the same as the day I picked it up from my dealer......great!

    One of the other members(steviej-2002 ES), from from the 'Lexus Owners' messageboard has driven his car approximately 1500 miles, and here are his findings:

    "It has been almost 1500 miles since the reflash. (A round trip from Boston to Toronto will do that to your odometer)

    1. The shifting is still very pleasing to me.
    2. There is no joggle at 40 mph.
    3. The shifting on the highway is very nice when passing and getting up to speed rapidly.
    4. Only once did I feel the dreaded redline and no shifting. However, it was from 10 mph, I floored it, going up a steep hill while turning right coming out of a mall.
    5. I am in learning mode too, so I am still getting used to the shifting. I keep expecting the old tranny to come back. So far so good.

    My travel to Toronto and back was all major highways. I averaged 29.5 mpg for the entire trip, and it was mostly driving 75-80 mph.

    I will post in two or three tankfuls the mpg for around town driving.


    So, at this point I have to say that everything seems to be A-OK.

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